Friday, December 31, 2010

New Years Resolutions, or Devotions?

As the very first breath of 2011 approaches, I am reveling in a year filled with grace, growth and grand adventure. I have a queue of at least ten blogs waiting to be written. However, I am finding that this gift of a month with my family, living with FOUR generations under one roof, is joyfully consuming all of my time and energy (whew - my nephew is three years old, need I say more?). What I am trying to say is that my desire to be as present as possible to this experience has unexpectedly moved my writing to the proverbial back burner.

And yet, here I am, at a local coffeeshop, my family back home preparing for our evening of year-end festivities. The truth is, I cannot NOT write right now. All this annual talk of resolutions reminds me of the Soul-driven purpose of this blog.

We are in the danger zone. This is the time of year where self-image attempts to divert much of our attention. Many of us vow to lose weight, gain muscle, accelerate speed, increase activity, decrease caloric intake, achieve goals, make more money, buy more stuff, get rid of stuff, and, in essence, FIX ourselves in some manner.

This is not to say that any of the goals we set are wrong or solely self-centered. And I am not outside of this collective annual renewal of goals to "be a better person." My list of New Years resolutions include: Train to get back into running; drop a lot of weight; eat better; be in better touch with loved ones; launch my wedding biz more actively; start climbing again; do more yoga; dance more; sing more. And the list does not stop there.

But here today, after months of looking at my life and my beliefs about my self-image and self-worth in a new light, this list leaves me wanting. I want a
new way of thinking about the freshness of a new year, the clean slate we are handed at the turn of the calendar. So I do what I love to do, I get to digging deeper into the meaning of words. Today's object of my affection: resolution.

According to my dear friend,
Oxford American Dictionary, "resolution" has many definitions, among them:
1. a firm decision to do or not to do something; the quality of being determined or resolute
2. the action of solving a problem, dispute, or contentious matter

This dictionary also lists resolution as one of the many facets of
courage, but explains,
"Resolution also implies firmness of mind rather than fearlessness, but the emphasis is on the determination to achieve a goal in spite of opposition or interference." The word
resolution comes from the Latin root resolvere which means to "loosen, release", and is also the root of the word resolve. Now, I love this idea of loosening the hold of some belief, pattern or habit that we no longer wish to carry around. I also like the notion of releasing something we no longer desire to have as part of our experience. So I can go with this line of reasoning when referring to making New Years resolutions.

But this restlessness I feel inside shows me I am less than satisfied. So I still my thoughts and dive deep inside. What more can I see here? Often, finding a new word that feels truer to where I am in my growth helps. And then it comes,

Again, Mr. Dictionary comes to my rescue defining
devotion as:
1. love, loyalty, or enthusiasm for a person, activity, or cause

I dig a little more, always working down to the root.
Devotion is synonymous with consecration, both from the same Latin root which means "dedicated, devoted as sacred." A warmth spreads in my chest, and I know I've hit it dead-on.

Here is my new approach to a fresh start. Tomorrow, I am going to sit with my heart and listen to what desires bubble up from the pool of knowing I hold inside. And from this place, I will make my New Years DEVOTIONS. From this place, I will choose activities and commitments that honor the sacred quality of my life, and set forth in practice thereof.

Will you join me? What New Years devotions are you willing to honor in 2011? How will you show up to your ever-unfolding journey in a new and more supportive way? How will you love yourself and others even more this year?

I leave you with a quote I heard from Maya Angelou this afternoon (quoted in Oprah's Master's Series preview on the Oprah Winfrey Network website): "Love liberates. It doesn't just hold. That's ego. Love liberates."

Happy New Year to one and all. Here's to a fresh start. May you choose resolutions that are devotional in nature, honoring how sacred every one of us is. May you choose Love and make room for it to set you free. MAY YOU CHOOSE LOVE.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Freedom of Movement, Movement of Freedom

I am lounging at a cafe in Plano, Texas, enjoying my first moments to myself since I arrived here a few days ago. Technically, I am here to pounce on some of my homework that has been piling up (I am enrolled in a course at But part of my catch-up routine includes, of course, a visit to my community on Facebook.

My dear friend Carol Ann has been on my mind, so I pop over to her page to peek in on her life. There are photos posted recently of a mountain-biking trip she took. Miles of rolling rock, and beautiful vistas, plateaus and mesas, desert sand and gnarled pinons, redrock and blue sky. YUM! And even a photo of her friend on top of a rock ledge about to go over the steep face. At the sight of this photo my gut response is, "I WANT THAT!"

Now let me tell you a little-known fact about me: I have never enjoyed mountain biking, ever. In fact, my history shows a record of getting out of mountain biking opportunities more than once or twice. So I am just as surprised by this sudden excitement as anyone!

Now I am not going to dismiss the notion that a new love of mountain biking could be potentially taking root, a sort of setting-myself-free from a longtime fear (I have believed for a long time that I hate falling down - unless I am skydiving!). But, as I sit with this jolt of feeling, I ask myself, What is it I really want? This is what rises inside me: I want movement, soaring freedom, feet that leave land, wind that caresses bare skin, sun warming body, the lightness of flowing quickly over land, physically-embodied engagement with my environment. In short, I want to PLAY! I want the freedom of movement. And I want it more than anything, like Edward wants Bella's blood (ok, well only at the beginning of the Twilight series, but you get what I mean!).

And I hear this ring in my head, I want this. I want this. I want this. I open an album of me on my summer 2005 ascent and summit of Mt. Rainier. The drool begins to build immediately. Such freedoms have graced my experience. Climbing in Joshua Tree, sea kayaking in Baja, canyoneering and whitewater rafting in Utah, daily trailrunning and snowshoe running. But if I am honest with myself, a major reason for being in the midst of this "research" (of gaining 40 pounds and letting go of my physical fitness on purpose), and living inside this heavier body by choice, is that I could not truly feel this freedom even when I wore it as close as the lightness of my own skin back then.

So what is this lust? Because beyond the lust, buried just below its surface, is a desire that burns for progress and growth. What I find just beyond my thoughts of, "It was so easy back then," and "What an idiot - I didn't even know what I had!" Just beyond these thoughts is the reality that freedom of movement is not what I crave. What I long for is the movement of freedom. I am all that stands in the way of my own freedom, right here, right now. No future heaven. No glorious past. Only this moment exactly as it is.

The thoughts I choose to accept as "mine," my choice to believe and identify with ego's constant atrophy-chatter of "not good enough" or limitation - these are my only prison. And I can move out of that darkness into the lightness of this very moment. I take a deeeeep breath. And another, for good measure (can there ever be too many long, luxurious deep breaths - why don't we take more of them, then?).

I remember that right here, right now I can move, and am moving, in the direction of freedom - which is not a destination but a moment-by-moment way of being. As I write this blog, my precious friend, Monica has sent me a picture of her amazing sister Gretchen riding through a forest wrapped in autumn (taken by Nathaniel Wilder - I am struck by the freedom of ease, focus and clear intent expressed - the perfect simplicity of being in that moment and nowhere else.

I close my eyes and I don't need to be in that forest. I don't need to imagine being in some exotic location to be happy. I don't need to picture having more money or a boyfriend, or less flesh or responsibility, I don't need any of these in order to feel peace. Sitting right here, with an empty latte mug and Bing Crosby crooning"White Christmas" from the speakers above me, I can feel the effortlessness of dancing through this moment with the same kind of freedom Gretchen is embodying on the bike. And it strikes me, This is the freedom of being in my own skin.

What do you need to shed in order to be here in this moment, exactly where, and exactly AS you are? Is it those two deep breaths (or maybe twenty)? Is it forgiving yourself for going through your day unconsciously today, or your week, month, year, or entire life? Do you need to make peace with some part of your experience that you have been ruthlessly criticizing lately - like the size of your thighs, or the shape of your nose, or your partner, or the dollar-amount in your bank account, or how you feel like you've been "failing" as a parent)?

Take those breaths, and remember, there is no other place you can be right now but right here. There is no other skin you can be in but your own. There is no other life for you to inhabit (I don't care how tempting "Wife Swap" may appear on TV, or any of those other "reality" shows!). Right here, right now, with this breath, and this breath, we can choose to let go of the thoughts standing between us and ever-present freedom. They are ONLY thoughts, and we don't have to keep as our own the ones which no longer serve us.

This is the movement of freedom - And I know for certain, I want THAT!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Welcome Izabella Rose, 7lbs 15oz, 20 inches

Have you ever noticed that from the get-go we are introduced by our size? To this day I know that I weighed 7lbs 13oz. This eventually gives way to age, then year in school, and then to profession ("So what do you do?"). Yet none of these aspects of our lives say anything truly meaningful about who we are.

This past week, on December 7th at 1:13 am, my niece made her debut 3 weeks before her due date. And I had no idea how much she weighed or how long she was for the first 48 hours. Everyone I would share these glad tidings with would ask, "How big is she?" And I know this is just our training. I ask this too. So this is not to beat up on anyone for asking.

As Westerners (and I do believe this does not apply for all cultures), we are constantly trying to categorize and label so that we know how to relate to others. When we ask about the birthweight of a baby, we plug in the data to discern whether the child is healthy and "normal", and also to get a picture in our head of the child. It is also simply a trained response passed down through generations that we ask how mom and baby are doing, and the stats - it's one of the ways we are socialized to connect with each other.

But when I heard myself saying, "I have no idea," to this usual question regarding baby stature, it got me to thinking about how little this really matters in getting to know a new little person. And then too how little these stats matter about any of us.

As parents and community members in the lives of young people, it is up to us to be very conscientious about how we are training our youth to see themselves and each other. We pass along distorted vision from generation to generation, rarely meaning to emotionally harm or damage our kids and each other. But we do. We dress it up in concern for our children's health, or in our desire for them to feel accepted in school, all the while projecting onto them our own fears about these very things and our own experience with these issues in our past.

My grandfather once said something to me that felt like a bruise on my heart for decades until I forgave him about 5 years ago. I was eight at the time, and surely he did not mean it the way I experienced it. He said, "You are going to get fat if you keep eating candy." A very simple statement, but I would later learn that he had issues and fears about obesity. As an eight-year old, I couldn't separate his words to me from how I believed he saw me. I couldn't see his fear for what it was, so I made his concern my reality and soon thereafter went on my first of many diets.

A couple of weeks ago, while watching a slide show that one of my sisters created for our youngest sister for her wedding, something struck me with ferocity. Picture after picture of me at ages seven to nince flashed on the screen, and for the first time I saw myself as I really was at that time - healthy. I had very skinny cousins and a sister who had small and delicate features. But I looked completely normal! I was running about and playing just like any average eight year old I meet on the street.

So how have I carried this story about being the "chubby girl" for so long? Even my sister Amy (the one who put the slide show together) agreed with me when I told her about my revelation. She said, "Yeah, I kept thinking the same thing as I looked through pictures of you at that age!"

In twenty-four hours, I will be on the road headed from CO to Dallas, TX to meet my new niece. As the excitement builds of holding her in my arms and kissing her beautiful cheeks, I am preparing myself to greet her in a new way. My job as her aunt is to be clear about the thoughts I am thinking of her as well as the words I say to her.

As I wrap this up, what comes to mind is a scene from the film, "Away We Go" (released in 2009). This romantic comedy is about a couple who finds out they are pregnant (unexpectedly) and who set out on a journey to find the perfect place to raise their daughter. After a riotous adventure learning how they DON'T want to be as parents (they visit several of their friends who have families), they come to a scene where they are laying on a trampoline. The entire movie Verona (the expectant mother) has turned down Burt's marriage proposals, she does yet again and he asks her why. She says she promises him that she is committed for life and does not feel she needs to marry him for this to be true.

As the scene unfolds, a sort of impromptu vow exchange begins to take place. They take turns asking, "And do you promise..." followed by saying "I do." It is one of the most beautiful love scenes I have ever witnessed in a romantic comedy. One of the expectant father's requests is that they love their little girl no matter what. I tried to find the movie clip, but was unsuccessful and wouldn't want to spoil the movie for anyone.

But the reason I am sharing this with you at all is because he says something so poignant about how he wants them to love their daughter unconditionally, that it glimmers of a new paradigm for how we can love our children. There is a glint of hope in raising our kids in a completely new way, that is focused on what really matters. Somehow this does not include their physical makeup.

I invite you to explore this new paradigm with me. I encourage all of us to catch ourselves when we are making judgments about others based on what our socialized eyes are trying to tell us. I invite us to go beyond, "How big is she?" and "How much did she weigh?"

©Heather Barron

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

You Can Dance If You Want To

This past Saturday, I took myself dancing. The evening began with a waltz lesson. Waltzing always makes me think of my dad, his 6'4" frame towering over my little 2-year old self, as we would waltz around the living room, me carried on the toes of his ginormous feet.

Now I am no dancin' queen (well, my private fantasies excluded!), but my elementary understanding of the waltz is as follows: waltzing has a tempo of 1,2,3,4,5,6 with an emphasis on the first and fourth beat. But what I noticed as I would take a turn with different partners, the beginners did not realize that the first beat is always on his left foot and the fourth on his right. And for the ladies, it is the opposite.

But this is what I love about this dance, if I start on the wrong foot, I can always get back on the right foot because the rhythm is so clear to me. Each time I shared this way of keeping ones feet straight, a lightbulb would go off for my partner as well.

During this period in the evening, an old English idiom popped into my head: "We must have gotten off on the wrong foot." If you begin on the wrong foot, inevitably you will kick feet with your partner, or trip, or both. And as I was thinking about this it struck me: I must have gotten off on the wrong foot with my dance partnership with my body.

This statement couldn't be any truer for me. It turns out that the origin of the idiom is actually based on an old superstition that if your left foot was the first to hit the ground in the morning it would supposedly bring bad luck. How many of us have started out on the wrong foot in our relationship with our bodies?

Perhaps we have been co-dependent with our bodies, like a love-hate relationship? How many of us have been involved for years in an awkward dance kicking ourselves in the shin and tripping over our less-than-loving body-concepts? How many of us have no idea how to begin creating a healthy partnership with our body so that this dance is more graceful and fun?

I feel my mind return to the simplicity of waltzing with my dad. How simple it was to just allow myself to be held on his sturdy and trustworthy toes, carried effortlessly. When I think about this newer body-relationship that I am growing into, this is what it feels like: a surrendering of the need to hate my body to be a "normal woman," a truce called on the vicious cycle of warring with my self-concept. It feels like returning home.

It is as though I am back in the dance, but I am no longer trying to lead. A still, small, gentle, loving and clear voice guides each of my steps like the firm hand of a good dance partner. This partner, who I think of as "Soul", tenderly tells me what I need to know to let go of a lifetime of trying to control the dance. I am no longer the leader, the one who needs to control each step and decision. I am not even a dancer, I am the danced.

Stay tuned. This is where we put our foot down (our RIGHT foot) and say, "Enough!" I will no longer settle for having two left feet when it comes to how I treat myself and others. It's time to take back our thinking about body, beauty and self-worth. This is the time to stop giving away our minds to the media, and our money to the multi-billion dollar diet industry, and to start seeing that we are nothing short of sacred.

Come dance with me. If you don't yet know the steps, do not let this keep you away. We will be learning how to hear and heed them together!

©Heather Barron

Monday, November 8, 2010

She Walks with Thunder in Her Thighs

So what exactly is The Clan of the Thunder Thighs?

When I was in middle school and high school, the worst thing you could have called me was "thunder thighs," a derogatory term used to call someone fat. I have never been a little girl in my build. I hail from a long line of strong Scottish, Irish, Polish and "Heinz 57" (as my mother called us) women. But growing up, I had no sense of this. My mother has always been petite and the family I grew up seeing most often was her side of the family. So my cousins were all trim and aunts and uncles too.

When I was nine years old, after being called fat by other kids, I begged my mother to let me go on a diet with her. She finally acquiesced, and thus began my foray into the American game of yo-yo dieting. I know she was being as loving as she thought possible at the time. And I was never easily ignored when I wanted my way.

But, if you google it, you'll see that yo-yo dieting is not only very dangerous and unhealthy, but it also leads to more overall weight gain for such dieters than those who never start to diet in the first place. The challenge was not the food, although I began binging and hoarding food when I was only eight (that story will come in another post). The challenge was not being able to see myself for who I really am - physically as well as emotionally and, most importantly, spiritually.

Somehow, we have become blinded by giving more weight to external opinions, beliefs and lies than the knowing that exists right inside our own hearts (how long have we known that even super models don't look like themselves in real life compared to their air-brushed magazine shots?). We know what me need, we have just forgotten. We've been distracted from realizing what we know to be true about ourselves.

And so, it was with the first line of a poem I wrote years ago, that I began to open my heart to this deep knowledge of my spiritual wholeness. I was in the midst of a terribly dark moment of struggle where I felt monstrously large (despite how healthy I actually was at the time). And I remember pinching my inner thigh with disgust and saying out loud, "I will always be cursed with these thunder thighs!"

And in a flash, it hit me: When did the idea of "thunder" become a negative thing? Think about it: Thunder denotes strength, power and force. When lightening strikes in the mountains, you don't laugh it off, you start counting the seconds between claps of thunder to see how close the power is getting to you.

I put my pen to paper. "She walks with thunder in her thighs." This was the line that marked a life-change for how I would choose to relate to myself from then on. It was in this moment that self-hatred, after years of suffocating my heart with the iron grip of its gnarly fingers, began to lose ground. And it has never regained full control.

In fact, it has led to this juncture in my path, the point where I am inviting all of us to stand in the power that lies inside of us, and say, "Thus far, and no farther." Walk out of this illusory prison with me. No man, woman or child need be a puppet controlled by cultural trends of success, beauty, or value. Our worth has never been dependent on a pant size (too big or too skinny), skin tone, fashion sense, or BMI. No scale, measuring tape, or mirror can give us value or strip us of it. These are inherent qualities in merely being.

And if you walk in this power than you are kin, you are in the Clan of the Thunder Thighs. And you are needed. Exactly as you most deeply are. And if you don't yet know your own strength in this way, but there is something that dances in your heart just to think about this kind of freedom - then you, too, are kin. And it's time to claim your inheritance!

©Heather Barron

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Move it or Lose it

On a balmy afternoon hike in the mountains behind my house this afternoon, one of my dogs halted suddenly in front of me blocking the trail. I poked her bum with my hand, nearly tripping over her, and said aloud in my best Humphrey Bogart voice, "Move it or lose it, Sweetheart." She picked up her easy trot again, and we continued on our way.

But that statement stuck with me. Move it or lose it. And in my writer's way, the way of heightened attention to any words heard or spoken, I began to wonder. What does this even mean? Lose what?

I've been thinking a great deal about atrophy and inertia as concepts lately. How when I am not using one of my skills or talents, it often feels like I'm losing my capacity for it. This has become most obvious in my experience of body. I am a relatively athletic and active person on the whole. But the past several months I have been committed to a project which has included gaining 40 pounds and intentionally letting go of a lot of my physical fitness and agility.

Now, what kind of project would require such choices? It's a long story and one that I plan to publish in a book by the same title as this blog. At this point a major part of this project is focused on paying attention to how different the world feels when lived in a heavy body, a body which feels weaker and more strained in even the simplest of situations (like jogging in an airport to make a flight).

One of my greatest joys is trail-running, a passion not hard to satiate when surrounded by endless mountain trails. But certainly one that is painfully kept just out of legs' reach in my current physical condition. So I walk and hike.

But the past few months, somewhat void of consistent activity, have resulted in feeling like parts of me are in the process of atrophy. Ankles feel rigid. Joints snap, crackle, and pop. Muscles moan and complain. I am clear that much of this is mental, and so here I find myself pondering atrophy as a spiritual concept.

When it comes down to it, my beliefs about movement are what have been atrophying. And as I walked along the trail today thinking of all the mental and emotional places in which I currently feel stalled, it occurred to me that these are the places I need to be exercising more focus and intention. Not surprisingly, my movement on the trail became more fluid and felt freer.

On that same walk, thanks to Sadie-the-dog, I realized that one of the things I have been putting off has been starting this blog. There is never going to be "better" time to get this started, to get moving. And I certainly want to move it rather than lose it!

So here is the first step. And it is one of many that lay before me, a series of steps that when linked together form a path. And this path is the way of the Clan of the Thunder Thighs! I hope you'll join me on the journey.

©Heather Barron